Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tutorial Tuesdays: Foam Trays

Tutorial Tuesdays is still kicking and still holding off the nearly inevitable dawn of Thutorial Thursdays.  Continuing along with my theme, today's super useful and way sweet tutorial is yet another that I've put into practice myself.

But first, some exposition.  Here we go!

In the race to get our models painted, we often forget about the most crucial aspect for ensuring that your minis have a long life - storage.  Or we flat out ignore it.  I've done it myself in the past.  I can't tell you how many times it ended up that my ENTIRE Chaos army ended up traveling in the upturned lid of a copy paper box.  Just looking around at some buddies of mine, some of them are still holding on to the idea that an unpadded tackle tray will keep things safe.  Some of them don't even bother with that.

Just because it has compartments, doesn't make it safe.

Just take a second to add up what your army is worth in terms of money and manpower spent getting it ready.  Its probably around $400-600 bucks worth of plastic and weeks of straight work.  Why the hell aren't you protecting them!  Even if all you've done is put the kits together, that Defiler is worth $60. Don't just throw it in a damn box!

Luckily for us, we live in an age were niche markets can do pretty well and we have a number of options for army transport and storage.  Sabol and Battlefoam are two of the big boys that make cases and foam trays.  Just between the two of them, you're almost sure to find something to fit your needs.

But lets be honest, either of those two companies aren't perfect solutions.  Sabol is nice and cheap, but their pluck foam trays leave a bit to be desired when it comes to space efficiency and weird shapes.  Battlefoam can and will make any pre-cut tray you can think up (even for the Sabol cases), but they cost an arm and a leg.

Luckily, there's another option:

Do It Yourself Foam Trays

I stumbled across this when I was looking for  a way to store the large number of Eldar grav tanks Iive accrued.  Especially that pesky Wave Serpent and all of its protrusions.  The Sabol trays were too small to do more than one per.  At 8 bucks a tray, they were quickly out for cost AND space reasons.  Battlefoam might have been able to swing something by way of a custom cut tray, but the fees were still considerable more than I'm willing to pay and buying one of there cases put the cost into the near astronomical range.  Funny how we spend so much money on the models and then balk at the cost of storage.  In any case, I have one of the Sabol motor pool army transport cases.  This is convenient because its a double wide.  Which means that if I make a tray, I can make use of all the wasted dead space between two regular Sabol trays.

So I set about following the tutorial to make a triple Wave Serpent Tray.  I have to say, this tutorial worked great.

A picture from the day Alec Baldwin, my DIY try and I saved Christmas. 
Not Pictured:  Me, DIY foam tray.

Here are my notes:

- make sure you get a pretty firm foam (sorry for the unfortunate alliteration).   Look for the green stuff he used.  I found mine in the upholstery section of the local fabric store.  Failing that, make sure the foam you get is at around as firm as a regular Sabol tray.

- Its probably a good idea to get a couple extra of those long cutting blades.  For whatever reason, the foam tends to dull the knife like crazy.

- TEST FIT!  Make sure your custom creation is going to fit in the bag BEFORE you commit to cutting out the model holes.

- The use of tacky glue is pretty important since it's flexable and you'll more than likely bend your tray at some point.

- It's also a good ideas to put some weight down on the green foam when you're gluing it towards the base.  But be careful that the two pieces don't shift around during the drying time.

- You can make bigger trays like I did, but you may have to make compromises on the base.  I ended up gluing multiple pieces down for the base and then closing the seams between panels with some acid neutral tape I had.

- Be prepared for a very labor intensive project.  

Obviously the up side to all this is the ability to cheaply and effectively create almost any size tray in an almost infinite array of configurations.  It won't look like much or be very quick to complete, but it will work.

Looks like I'm going to have to owe you for pictures of my actual work with this tutorial.  Which brings me up to two IOUs with last weeks bases how-to.  Look for a short post with pics in the near future.


  1. well I certainly hope the tacklebox remark wasn't aimed my way. The armies that I travel with all go into sabol cases. only my unpainted battletech stuff is in a tacklebox right now.

    Interesting tutorial though. I liked it most when the writer cut the shit out of his finger

  2. haha, no its Vanny with the tackle trays. All his lizard men and now the Silent Death minis I'm fixing up for him.

  3. We use a high density foam at work to surround the die that cuts out paper. I can probably piece together the scraps to make tank trays. IF they throw that out. Most of the places reuse it, but it looks like JBM tosses it(they're in a gigantic pile that dissapears once in a while).

  4. Well hey, glad to see that someone is making use of my tutorial. Making these trays gets faster the more you get used to them. I can whip out a tray pretty fast now. I also started using an electric knife for the thicker foams (3"+)

    Also, yea, cutting my finger sucked.